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Ride-Hailing Fight Officially Heads to State Legislature

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Miguel Gutierrez Jr. /KUT News
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At least two state lawmakers filed bills Monday that would strip Texas cities of their power to regulate ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

State Senator Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) filed a bill, SB 176, to strip cities of their right to regulate ride-hailing companies. Instead, the state would handle permitting of these companies. The bill would also divert a revenue source from cities to the state, which would begin collecting annual fees from these companies – up to $125,000 each, depending on the number of drivers they employ.

If it's signed into law, SB 176 would mandate background checks for all ride-hailing drivers. While the bill would require companies to check sex offender registries and validate criminal records at the courts, the background checks would be left to the companies. In all likelihood, that would mean no mandatory fingerprint-based background checks, the issue which pitted the Austin City Council against Uber and Lyft.

The bill would also allow ride-hailing companies to opt-out of providing wheelchair-accessible rides, but the state could fine these companies up to $20,000 a year for failing to provide access.

Schwertner’s filing Monday came as no surprise. The day after voters rejected local rules written by an Uber- and Lyft-funded PAC in favor of more stringent city council rules in May, Schwertner pledged to “address ridesharing at the Capitol.”

State Senator Don Huffines (R-Dallas) filed a similar bill dismantling local control of ride-hailing companies. His bill laid out fewer specifics on how, once the power is moved to the state, Texas would handle regulation.

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